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is6d 
25 Gents 



A PARABLE OF ANARCHY 




a journal of anarchist ideas 



Conttnts of No. 7 



September * 



Adventure Playground : a parable of anarchy C.W. 

New Town Adventure Annie Mygind 

Adventure in Lollard Street Sheila Beskine 

The Revolution in Physical Education Joan Foster 

Observations on Anarchy 4 John Vaiz.ey, Peter Townsend 

live Smith, James Robertson 
If. Schwartz, Norman Rush, B. Leslie 



193 

202 
204 
214 



219 



Cover and illustrations 



Sheila Beskine 



Other issues of ANARCHY: 

No. 1. Alex Comfort on Sex-and-Violence, Nicolas Walter on the New 
Wave, and articles on education, opportunity, and Galbraith. 

No. 2. A symposium on Workers* Control. 

No. 3. What does anarchism mean today?, and articles on Africa, the 
'Long Revolution 1 and exceptional children. 

No. 4. George Molnar on conflicting strains in anarchism, Colin Ward 
on the breakdown of institutions. 

No. 5. A symposium on the Spanish Revolution of 1936. 

No. 6. Anarchy and Cinema: articles on Vigo, Buhuel and Flaherty. 
Two experimental film-makers discuss their work. 



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193 



We who demand freedom in education, autonomy in the 
school and self-government in industry are not inspired by any 
vague ideal of liberation. What we preach is really a discipline 
and morality as formal and fixed as any preached by Church or 
State. But our law is given in nature, is discoverable by scientific 
method, and, as Aristotle points out, human beings are adapted 
by nature to receive this law. Because we are so adapted, freedom, 
which is a vague concept to so many people, becomes a perfectly 
real and vivid principle, because it is a habit to which we are 
preconditioned by biological elements in our physical frame and 
nervous constitution. 

— Herbert Read : "The Education of Free Men". 



Adventure Playground : 
a parable of anarchy 

When we call ourselves anarchists, that is, people who advocate 
the principle of autonomy as opposed to authority in every field of 
personal and social life, we are constantly reminded of the apparent 
failure of anarchism to exercise any perceptible influence on the course 
of political events, and as a result we tend to overlook the unconscious 
adoption of anarchist ideas in a variety of other spheres of life. Some 
of these minor anarchies of everyday life provide analogies, some 
provide examples, and some, when you describe their operation, sound 
like veritable parables of anarchy. 

All the problems of social life present a choice between libertarian 
and authoritarian solutions, and the ultimate claim we may make for 
the libertarian approach is that it is more efficient — it fulfils its function 
better. The adventure playground is an arresting example of this living 
anarchy, one which is valuable both in itself and as an experimental 
verification of a whole social approach. The need to provide children's 
playgrounds as such is a result of high-density urban living and fast- 
moving traffic. The authoritarian solution to this need is to provide 
an area of tarmac and some pieces of expensive ironmongery in the form 
of swings, see-saws and roundabouts, which provide a certain amount 
of fun (though because of their inflexibility children soon tire of them), 
but which call for no imaginative or constructive effort on the child's 
part and cannot be incorporated in any self-chosen activity. Swings 
and roundabouts can only be used in one way, they cater for no fantasies* 



194 

for no developing skills, for no emulation of adult activities, they call 
for no mental effort and very little physical effort, and we are giving 
way to simpler and freer apparatus like climbing frames, log piles, 
'jungle gyms', commando nets, or to play sculptures — abstract shapes 
to clamber through and over, or large constructions in the form of boats, 
traction engines., lorries or irains. Bui even these provide for a limited 
age-group and a limited range of activities, and it is not surprising that 
children find more continual interest in the street, the derelict building, 
the bombed site or the scrap heap. 

For older boys, team-games are the officially approved activity, 
and as Patrick Geddes wrole before ilie first world war, "they are at 
most granted a cricket pitch, or lent a space between lootball goals, 
but otherwise are jealously watched, as potential savages, who on the 
least symptom of their natural activities of wigwam-building, cave- 
digging, stream-damming, and so on must be instantly chivvied away, 
and are lucky if not handed over to the police." 

That there should be anything novel in simply providing facilities 
for the spontaneous, unorganised activities of childhood is an indication 
of how deeply rooted in our social behaviour is the urge to control, 
direct and limit the flow of life. But when they get the chance, in the 
country, or where there are large gardens, woods or bits of waste land, 
what are children doing? Enclosing space, making caves, tents, dens, 
from old bricks, bits of wood and corrugated iron. Finding some corner 
which the adult world has passed over and making it their own. But 



What is so puzzling about our juvenile crime figures? These 
overwhelmingly concern boys, and most boys are brought up in 
adventure-frustrating suburban deserts, in slums or in matchbox 
council fiats on keep -off -the grass estates. Millions of them, 
emerging semi-literate from our education factories, are instantly 
converted, at fifteen, into industrial cogs. They find themselves 
in a rat-racing society, the successful section of which depends on 
their labour for its sacred capital gains, but rejects them as people 
and savagely resents their clams to a decent wage. 

Because of deadly home conditions, these boys naturally take 
to the streets after work, and because of the monotony of that 
work are naturally ravenous for drama and excitement. Their 
pay-packets can't buy this for them, but crime — particularly 
breaking and entering — can. It can also buy gang-status and is a 
means of giving society a kick in the pants, of forcing it to sit 
up and take notice of their existence. 

Add to this the growing awareness that none of us may 
amount, tomorrow, to more than a handful of radioactive dust, 
and it should astonish us that young crime figures are not twice 
as high. 

— Audrey Harvey, in a letter to "The Observer", 13/8/61. 



195 

how uin children find this kind of private world in towns, where, as 
Ague l e Vestereg of the Copenhagen Junk Playground write: 

Lvery bit of land is put to industrial or commercial use, where every 
patch of grass is protected or enclosed, where streams and hollows are 
tilled in, cultivated and built on? 

Hut more is done for children now than used to be done, it may be 
objected. Yes, but that is one of the chief faults — the things are done. 
Town children move about in a world full of the marvels of technical 
science. They may see and be impressed by things; but they long also to 
lake possession of them, to have them in their hands, to make something 
themselves, to create and re-create. 

The Emdmp playground was begun in 1943 by the Copenhagen 
Workers' Co-operative Housing Association after their landscape archi- 
tect, Mr. C. T. Sorensen, who had laid out many orthodox playgrounds 
had observed that children seemed to get more pleasure when they stole 
into the building sites and played with the materials they found there, 
in spite of a daily average attendance of 200 children at^Emdrup, and 
that "difficult' children were specially catered for, it was found that 
"the noise, screams and fights found in dull playgrounds are absent, for 
the opportunities are so rich that the children do not need to fight." 

The initial success at Copenhagen has led in the years since the 
war to a. widespread diffusion of the idea and its variations, from 
'Freetown' in Stockholm and The Yard' at Minneapolis, to the Skram- 
mclicgeplads or building playgrounds of Denmark and the Robinson 
Crusoe playgrounds of Switzerland, where children are provided with 
I he raw materials and tools for building what they want and for making 
gardens and sculpture. In this country we have had at least a dozen 
adventure playgrounds, several of them temporary, since their sites were 
earmarked for rebuilding, but there has been enough experience and 
enough documentation of it, for us to gauge fairly well their successes 
and pitfalls. 

These accounts which should disabuse anyone who thinks it is 
easy to run an adventure playground, as well as anyone who thinks it 
a waste oi time, include the following: 

Ativan tire Playgrounds. Lady Allen's pioneering pamphlet, which incor- 
poinlo: Agnete Vcslereg's account of I he Lmdrup playground and John 
Lagcniann\ oi The Yaul. 

AdvaUun* in Play by John Itarron Mays, describing the Rathbone Street 
Adventure Playground al Liverpool. 

Annual Reports of the (irintshy Adventure Playground Association, by 
Foe Benjamin, the project leader until I05*>, who has also written elsewhere 
on this playground. 

Lollard Adventure Playground, a pamphlet by Mary Nicholson, and 
Something /Extraordinary, by H. S. Turner, the warden at Lollard Street. 

Play Parks, by Lady Allen of Hurt wood, an account of the Swedish 
play parks with suggestions for (heir adoption here. 

Adventure Playgrounds, a progress report by the National Playing Fields 
Associations on the playgrounds at Lollard Street, Grimsby, Romford, Bristol, 
Liverpool and St. John's Wood, with facts and figures useful to people 
thinking of starting a playground. 



196 

When The Yard was opened at Minneapolis with the aim of giving 
the children "their own spot of earth and plenty of tools and materials 
for digging, building and creating as they see fit", 

it was every child for himself. The initial stockpile of secondhand 
lumber disappeared like ice off" a hot stove. Children helped themselves 
to all they could carry, sawed of! long boards when short pieces would have 
done. Some hoarded tools and supplies in secret caches. Everybody wanted 
to build the biggest shack in the shortest time. The workmanship was 
shoddy. 

Then came the bust. There wasn't a stick of lumber left. Hi-jacking 
raids were staged on half-finished shacks. Grumbling and bickering broke 
out. A few children packed up and left. 

But on the second day of the great depression most of the youngsters 
banded together spontaneously for a salvage drive. Tools and nails came 
out of hiding. For over a week the youngsters made do with what they 
had. Rugged individualists who had insisted on building alone invited 
others to join in— and bring their supplies along. New ideas popped up 
for joint projects. By the time a fresh supply of lumber arrived a com- 
munity had been born. 

As in Copenhagen the prophesied casualties did not happen. 
"After a year of operation, injuries consisted of some bandaged thumbs 
and small cuts and bruises for the entire enrolment of over 200 children. 
No child has ever used a tool to hit another person." 

This question of safety is so often raised when adventure play- 
grounds are discussed that it is worth citing the experience in this 
country (where the pernicious notion that whenever accidents happen 
someone must be sued has actually caused some local authorities to 
close their orthodox playgrounds— so that the kids can get run over 
instead). The insurance company was so impressed by the engrossed 
activity at the Cyldesdale Road (Paddington) playground, with its com- 
plete lack of hooliganism that it quoted lower rates than for an ordinary 
playground. At Rathbone Street, Liverpool, the 'toughest' of the 
English playgrounds : 

So many children crowded together with so many opportunities for 
mutilating one another were bound to produce a steady flow of abrasions, 
cuts and bruises with the occasional more serious wound requiring stitching 
or a fractured bone. Statistically, however, the slide appeared to be the 
highest risk while the permanent ironwork equipment generally produced 
more accidents than the junk and scrap materials in the Adventure Play- 
ground proper. 

Reading Mr. Mays' account of the Liverpool playground, with its 
stories of gang-warfare, sabotage, thieving scrap-metal merchants, 
hostility and indifference in the neighbourhood except for one street 
of immediate neighbours, senseless and wanton destruction, the reader 
may wonder how on earth it could keep going. But the author, remind- 
ing us that the essence of an experiment is that it is experimental, 
concludes that 

In spite of all its shortcomings, many of which were the result of hasty 
planning and lack of solid financial support, in spite of mistakes made by 
its management committee and the errors of its two appointed leaders, in 



197 

spite of the roughness of the site, the endless brickbats, the noise, the dirt, 
the disorder, sufficient evidence has accrued to support the main thesis on 
which the playground was established — that given the tools, the materials, 
the adult interest, advice and support children will indulge in constructional 
play, they do derive satisfaction from using hand and eye in making and 
building, fetching, carrying, painting and digging. 

T ho shortcomings, he points out, are no more inevitable than the com- 
munity allows them to be. The Rathbone Street playground only 
seemed a failure from a distance: those closest to it, as Mr. Mays 
says, "are much less gloomy about its value", and it has already led 
to further adventuring in Liverpool. 

On the other hand, the Lollard Playground which seemed from the 
outside to be as the Evening Stardard called it, "a heartwarming success 
story" gave rise among its workers to the kind of feeling which Sheila 
Beskine describes in this issue of Anarchy, a "fantastic spontaneous 
lease of life" followed by a slow decline, so that its spirit had died 
before the LCC took over the site for building. But permanence is not 
the criteria of success. As Lady Allen says, a good adventure play- 
ground "is in a continual process of destruction and growth". The 
splendid variety of activities which came and went at Lollard from 
vegetable-growing to producing a magazine, plays, operettas, jiving 
and 'beauty sessions' were a measure of its success. As at Emdrup, 
this playground kept the interest of older children and young people 
up to the age of twenty thus enlarging the scope of possible projects. 
The older boys built and equipped a workshop and eagerly sought to 
serve the community in which they lived, doing repairs and redecorations 
for old people in the district, paying for the materials from a fund of 
their own. These were the same young people who are such a 
"problem" to their elders. The difference is that between the atmos- 
phere of the irresponsible society, and that which was precariously built 
at the playground. The place, said the warden "stands for far more 



(hunting that childhood is play hood, how do we adults gene- 
rally react to this fact'.' We ignore //. We forget all about it— 
because play, to us, is a waste of time, /fence we erect a large 
city school with many rooms and expensive apparatus for teaching: 
but more often than not, all we offer to the play instinct is a small 
concrete space. One could, with some truth, claim that the evils 
of civilization arc due to the fact that no child has ever had enough 
play . . . Parents who have forgotten the yearnings of their child- 
hood — forgotten how to play and how to fantasy — make poor 
parents. When a child has lost the ability to play, he is psychically 
dead and a danger to any child who comes into contact with him. 

— A. S. Neill, 



198 

than a mere playground", and 1 the Chairman summed up 

This playground is different because it's a place where the children have 
an infinite choice of opportunities. They can handle basic things — earth, 
water plants, timber — and work with real tools; and they have an adult 
friend, a person they trust and respect. Here every child can develop a 
healthy sense of self-esteem, because there is always something at which 
they can excel. The wide age range, from two years to twenty-three, is 
perhaps unique in any playground. There can be progressive development 
through rich play opportunities, to a growing sense of responsibility to the 
playground, to younger children and, finally, to others outside the play- 
ground. Their willingness to help others is the sign of real maturity which 
is the object of all who work with young people. 

The Grimsby playground, started in 1955, has a similar story. 
Its cycle of growth and renewal is annual. At the end of each summer 
the children saw up their shacks and shanties into firewood which they 
deliver in fantastic quantities to old age pensioners. When they begin 
building in the spring, "it's just a hole in the ground— and they crawl 
into it". Gradually the holes give way to two-storey huts. But 

they never pick up where they left off at the end of the previous summer. 
It's the same with fires. They begin by lighting them just for fun. Then 
they cook potatoes and by the end of the summer they're cooking eggs, 
bacon and beans. 

Similarly with the notices above their dens. It begins with nailing up 
'Keep Out' signs (just as in The Yard at Minneapolis). After this come 
more personal names like 'Bughole Cave' and 'Dead Man's Cave', but 
by the end of the summer they have communal names like 'Hospital' 
or 'Estate Agent'. There is an ever-changing range of activities "due 
entirely to the imagination and enterprise of the children themselves . . . 
at no time are they expected to continue an activity which no longer 
holds an interest for them . . . Care of tools is the responsibility of the 
children. At the end of 1958 they were still using the same tools pur- 
chased originally in 1955. Not one hammer or spade has been lost, 
and all repairs have been paid for out of the Nail Fund." Mr. Benjamin, 



A small space which belongs to it alone, a playground not 
too far from the house, providing the opportunity of contacts 
with children of different ages, and simple materials for creating 
things; that is all it needs. But these facilities are essential, and 
where they are lacking, the effects will be similar to that of a lack 
of vitamins to the body. The child starves and gets a mental 
beri-beri disease, psychic scurvy. Today we witness the eruption 
of wild destructive instincts among youth, which represent nothing 
more than distorted aggression which was not activated in the 
normal way in childhood. When denied natural outlets for 
activity and adventure, the child becomes prone to harmful and 
stupid forms of expression. 

— Professor H. Zbinden. 



199 

the project leader for the first years at Grimsby has thought deeply on 

he implications and lessons of the adventure playground moveSem 

answered sceptical critics in a memorable letter: movement 

By what criteria are adventure playgrounds to be judged? 

Jt it is by the disciplined activity of the uniformed organisations then 

tTi*l n °< d ° Ubt but W l are a fai,ure - If i( ■'* ^ the succefs of our/ootbaU 
and table tennis teams then there is no doubt we are a flop If Tis bv the 

$^n££^ M f ° r * *™ <* ^ national* alaTds^ 
ora^^ 

^r^^o^ln^-er """ ^ J ^ *> ^^ 

May I suggest thai we need to examine afresh the Dattern tak P n I™ 

™WVf P ' ay , an i' hcn C<>mpare " wi,h fe needs of thfgrowngehild 

day when he will enter the world proper. P 

;)mZ he adve " lure Playgrounds in this country, new though thev are are 
already proving a number of lessons which we would do well To study 
For hree successive summers the children have built their dens and created 
S? jTi W ' th i ?' OW - n h0Spital ' fire station - shops! etc As each den 

nXra^'^orbiS 1 ?" 3 '^ brou8ht with H » -i^rvs 

„ u The ? attern ° f . adventure playgrounds is set by the needs of the children 
The Z 'hfljtheir 'toys' include woodwork benches and sew n g machines 
The play of the chtldren is modelled closely on the world around them 
and as such has a meaning that is understood easily by all' types' 1 w do" 
not believe that children can be locked up in neat little parcels labelled 
or,h g e e sc a h n o d o.s eX - N6ither d ° ^ bdieVe that education is ^ e C prero2" e ve 



Apart from the kind of objection you will always get from people 
who resent anything pleasurable that doesn't make money, three kinds 
of objections are made to adventure playgrounds-danger, unsightliness, 
and expense of supervision. Happily the danger is more apparent than 
oi iTh h ^ Secre,a [y of the National Playing Fields Association has 
stated that the accident rate is lower than on orthodox playgrounds 
since hooliganism which results from boredom is absent They are 
unsightly m the ordinary sense (and so is nine-tenths of our physical 
enviroment). for as Mr. Mays notes, pnyMcai 

Children like disorder or find some invisible order therein Most 
adults taic ,, Children do not in the leas, mind being dirty Most achats 
i,' lW ™, w "! «■'.-<" a source of enjoyment in the oddesFand mo 
unlikely play material: tin cans, milk bottle tops, broken slates, soil cinders 

rubb,°sh . . at,l " , min " ' hinkS of ,hcsc thin « s in te ™ s of refuse and 

The solution of course is to use a solid fence instead of chicken- 
wire, as is after all customary for adult building and demolition opera- 



200 

tions. (The Emdrup playground has a 6ft. high bank with a thicket 
hedge and fence on top, which also absorbs the high frequencies of 
children's voices). 

Certainly more skilled adult assistance is needed than in a con- 
ventional playground. Indeed everything depends upon having some- 
thing different from a park-keeper saying 'Don't! ' or a patronising leader 
saying 'Do!'. Against the cost of this can be set the lower capital 
costs than for a conventional playground and the fact that much public 
goodwill, assistance as gifts of materials can usually be counted on. 
(Many advocates of adventure playgrounds who see them as "saving 
children from delinquency" would set the cost of leaders' salaries against 
the enormous cost of putting children in remand homes, approved 
schools and so on). On the question of such costs, local authorities 
are empowered under section 53 of the Education Act to grant aid to 
the cost of employing play leaders, and the adventure playgrounds in 
this country, mostly run by voluntary organisations, have in fact had 
financial help both from local councils and from the National Playing 
Fields Association and in some cases from philanthropic foundations. 

Much could be said about the nature of adult help in an adventure 
playground. The NPFA report sees the person of the play leader as 
the over-riding factor in success besides which the other considerations 
fall into insignificance. (It is worth nothing that Stockholm with a 
population of J million has 84 play leaders and London with 8J million 
has eight or nine). Yet as Mr. Turner in his book about Lollard shows, 
there is no specification for the ideal person, the most bizarre characters 
have been wildly successful. Discussing the early experience at 
Clydesdale Road, Lady Allen made the point that, although we use 
the word leader we want something different : 

it must be a grown-up who exerts the minimum authority and is willing 
to act rather as an older friend and councillor than as a leader . . . It is 
these children, particularly, who so deeply enjoy the companionship of an 
older person who is willing to be understanding and very generous of his 
time. We cannot think of a good title for this individual: supervisor is 
wrong, connected in the children's minds with discipline; a play leader is 
trained for a different type of work, and for younger children, so we use 
the word 'leader' but it is not right. 

The role of the 'leader' is catalytic, and it is apparent from the 
various accounts of adventure playgrounds that too few adults have 
had to fulfil too many roles— from social worker to begging letter 
writer and woodwork instructor. An informal and changing group of 
people, both full-time and voluntary, and including friendly neighbours 
and older children is evidently the happiest combination. 
* * * 

Finally, in case it isn't obvious, why do we claim the adventure 
playground movement as an experiment in anarchy? Well, let us 
repeat yet again, Kropotkin's definition of an anarchist society as one 
which 

seeks the most complete development of individuality combined with 
the highest development of voluntary association in all its aspects, in all 



20 r 

possible degrees, for all imaginable aims; ever changing, ever modified 
associations which carry in themselves the elements of their durability and 
constantly assume new forms which answer best to the multiple aspirations 
of all. A society to which pre-established forms, crystallised by law, are 
repugnant; which looks for harmony in an ever-changing and fugitive 
equilibrium between a multitude of varied forces and influences of every 
kind, following their own course. . . . 

Every one of these phrases is recognisably a description of the 
microcosmic society of the successful adventure playground, and it 
leads us to speculate on the wider applications of the idea which is in 
essence the old revolutionary notion of "free access to the means of 
production", in this instance to the means of every kind of creative 
and recreative activity. We think of course of the Peckham Experi- 
ment — a kind of adventure playground for people of all ages, or the 
kind of variations on work and leisure in freely chosen activity envisaged 
in Paul and Percival Goodman's Communitas. The adventure play- 
ground is a free society in miniature, with the same tensions and 
ever-changing harmonies, the same diversity and spontaneity, the same 
unforced growth of co-operation and release of individual qualities 
and communal sense, which lie dormant in a society devoted to com- 
petition and acquisitiveness. 




202 



New Town 
adventure 

ANNIE MYGIND 

On my first return to Denmark after the war, my cousin Erik invited 
me to come and see a playground a friend of his had started. "It's a 
very special idea," he said, is to give town children the opportunity to 
play as children can in the country, and have bonfires, build huts and 
caves and muck around in safety; they need to be able to do these 
things without getting in the way of adults." 

This sounded exciting, and Erik's enthusiasm was infectious — but 
although the answers he gave to my questions gradually built up a 
picture, I found something more in the Emdrup Playground. This was 
a sense of freedom — a recognition that children must play and work 
at their own pace, without the setting of adult standards of achievement. 
John Bertelsen, who had initiated the idea was there in daily charge. 
He was a young seaman with a nursery school teacher's training (fan- 
tastic and unique combination!), and there is no doubt that he made 
the playground, not just organisationally, in acquiring the scrap materials 
and tools, and in negotiating with the authorities, etc., but in the sense 
that his unsentimental love and egalitarian attitude to children set the 
atmosphere, and allowed the children to be themselves while they were 
in the playground. It was a sort of children's republic, so many yards 
square, fenced off from the outside world by a tall dyke; but set in the 
"kingdom" of a co-operative housing estate just outside Copenhagen. 

There was the rub: John in fact was doing a sort ot Jesus Christ 
act — taking all the sins and conflicts of contemporary society upon his 
shoulders through the children. When he left, as he did a short while 
later, the playground changed radically. The rule of law took over: 



ANNIE MYGIND, who wrote in Anarchy 6 about her film Circus at 
Clopton Hall, here describes her experiences in starting an adventure 
playground in a New Town. Her cousin Erik Mygind began the 'Cave 
City y playground at Virum near Copenhagen, after witnessing the success 
of the famous Emdrup 'junk playground' in that city. 



203 

it was no longer a children's republic, but an extension of the housing 
estate. 

But his example and vision inspired others—there were many 
visitors from abroad. Eight years later I saw the opportunity of starting 
such a playground in an English New Town. Among the neat, ordered 
rows of front gardens with their rosebushes and little lawns there were 
a small number of children who rebelled against the hire-purchase- 
washing-machine culture with unfortunate results for the rosebushes. 
Surely if their energies conld be canalised in the right setting, i.e a play- 
ground without adult rosebushes where they could dig and splash and 
build and make bonfires to their heart's content, the parents would be 
able to cultivate their gardens in peace and the children would be 
happy? 

It took a year's hard work by a small band of enthusiasts to explain 
the idea of the playground, negotiate with the authorities, collect money 
from those who were willing to give, scout out tools from remote surplus 
stores, and find a playground leader, a site, scrap materials, get lava- 
tones built, fencing and a hut. The support of Lady Allen of Hurtwood 
(who charmed us all when she came to give a lecture to the Community 
Association), as well as that of the National Playing Fields Association 
was a great help, and the playground was opened in 1955. 

The children flocked in, and the site, which was rough grassland, 
in a short while looked like a peacefield battlefield; earth dug up enthus- 
iastically; houses built (the best of them by a gang with the reputation 
for smashing lamp-standards); potatoes roasted on bonfires; and they 
came back again and again. It was difficult to gauge local reactions- 
there were pictures and reports in the local press, polite and very mildly 
appreciative. But also "cartoons" depicting vicious behaviour and 
vandalism. (One child in fact did start to hack the bark off a venerable 
tree. The explanation that this would kill the tree satisfied him suffi- 
ciently to make him stop). Some mothers would say "This is a good 
idea, the children like it. They should have started one years ago" (!) 
Others wouldn't let their kids come because they were afraid they'd 
get hurt or dirty or both. 

On balance though, there was a sense of achievement : it was worth 
while— in spite of press attacks, snobbery and minor crises. 

But the small achievement highlighted the social disease around us. 
Much support was given for its prestige value. There was very little 
direct help except from a small band of devoted people. There was not 
enough money. The playground leader, who was no Jesus Christ, 
was underpaid and only lasted one season. 

The children, although purposefully active, did not find that sense 
of easy freedom that we saw at Emdrup. One saw in fact that this 
was only a very ragged plaster on one social wound— the negative 
attitude to our children. 



204 



Adventure in 
Lollard Street 

SHEILA BESKINE 

«Aw — that's not Sheila is it? Good God!" Arriving for another 
interlude at Lollard, I meet the Masher, 17, in the Lambeth Walk, and 
receive his usual welcome. How long I stay this time depends on 
where I can find to sleep. Last time I was able to stay, on condition I 
fed the cat, at the top of a very rocky building. Like the rows of 
squashed, grey little houses, the place was due for demolition in 1939, 
and I believed it when the floor shook to my walk and rattled the 
windows. The girl in the "Top Value" food store smiles : she knows 
me and the grubby-handed children who call religiously for Oxo tins 
for our cooking and marbling. The stall man on the corner gives me 
a little grin and I turn into Wake Street to a noisier welcome from some 
of the smaller Clarks and Haleys. 

I dump my rucksack on the platform in the Hut and sink down to 
be clambered over by various small children, and some older girls who 
want to "do my hair". I am presented with another Spearmint Chew, 
this time a whole one. When I first came as a student I was, like every 
other visitor, a subject of unhidden curiosity. A little girl whispered 
"Hasn't Sheila got long hair, Mr. Turner? But she's an artist, isn't 
she?" I'd always wanted to try jiving and had never plucked up the 
courage, but here one could and the girls had patiently taught me their 
dead set little pattern, but soon found my variations impossible to part- 
ner; and bare feet with the hair, which of course fell down, convinced 
them I was "Bowey" (pre-beatnik term for bohemian). 

Today my rucksack contained, besides the usual fascinations of 
sketchbook and edibles, a marvellous lump of green glassy substance, 
very heavy, which I'd found half buried in a north Essex field, and 



SHEILA BESKINE, who teaches in a secondary modem school, was 
one of the voluntary helpers at the Lollard Adventure Playground in 
Lambeth, which was recently described in H. S. Turner's book Some- 
thing Extraordinary {Michael Joseph). She edits the newsletter of the 
National Association of Recreation Leaders. 



205 

hopefully suspected to be a piece of meteorite. So we took it to the 
museums to be identified, and we (myself and three boys of vaguely 
twelve) ended up in a very learned basement of the Natural History 
Museum. In no time at all our precious meteorite, with its popping 
bubbles and whorlings all suddenly stilled, was identified rather flatly, 
as a piece of roadstone probably from Fords at Dagenham. Anyway, 
they'd signed the Enquirers' Book and gone through a specially unlocked 
door, and we spent the rest of the morning in the Science Museum. 

Peter, who had just finished his apprenticeship, was the only local 
person I met who helped at all regularly, spending most of the day in 
the workshop with a group of younger boys, emerging at dinner time 
for our co-operative cooking in Oxo tins, which became the rage. To- 
day we had a "smashing" dinner, admired by many, and thus dimin- 
ished: onions with burnt sausage bits greasily whammed in between 
thick lumps of bread, and then greengages, which were cheap. Other 
days we cooked mackerel or eggs. Once when it was hopeless trying 
to get myself any dinner (though there was always the Eel and Pie 
shop up the Walk), we had a hot dog session, very successful, at cost 
price (which varied according to face and pocket). 

Another fire activity which magnetised the younger children was 
"Tie-Dyeing", and Paul, a little crippled Greek boy, was a most enthus- 
iastic helper, often collecting firewood from the fruit stalls in the Walk. 
We tied up stones in bits of old shirt and then boiled up the dye, which 
I had got as free samples, and the cloth was attended to with much 
prodding and stirring. We hung them up, like so much brightly 
coloured seaweed, on sticks wedged into the netting fence to dry in the 
sun, soon to be untied, to discover, delightedly, the white circles. The 
interest caught on well, and one of the big boys, not realising that this 
could almost come under the heading of "needlework" and therefore 
be cissy, summed up the example as being "very flash". Then the older 
girls got interested. The fact that the idea comes from India and Africa 
convinced them that it was as nuts as me, though nice. But the one 
enamel bowl got stoned in when I didn't put it away, and in any case 
no one brought any more cloth. 

Mr. Turner, the warden, has brought his violin today, and we 
went to the workshop to listen. Rita Quinn made a quaint little 
drawing of him, and then one of me, adorned with little circular 
bosoms. Sylvia was looking at the drawings over my shoulder. 
"Look at them. Sheila." "What's wrong with them?" "She's drawn 
them\" she said, pointing either side of her chest, in such a sweet way, 
not aggressive. "What's wrong with that, Sylvic?" "It's dirty" she 
whispered. "Why?". Shoulder shrug. Sylvia is 7, one of a family 
of seven children (including one by "uncle") ranging from the baby 
last Christmas to Jimmy who is 9. One day the father told us with 
the air of a dutiful parent, "1 only reckon to drink 4 pints a day 
when I'm not working. 1 drink 10 when I am." 

Once, by accidental invitation, I spent an evening in their kitchen. 
Sylvie had been sent to ask if I'd like a cup of tea (I was in the Hut 



206 

on my own) and I assumed this meant I must come and get it. There 
was a hasty and embarrassing tidying up, and then I was allowed to 
creep in. Dad and the baby were asleep in the front room. The 
space was mainly taken up by a solid table covered with a green 
chenille cloth on which was a bottle of milk and some bread and 
two of the smaller children with the breadknife. The walls were all 
peeled paper with bits of wood and plaster exposed in places. In the 
space between the table front and the oven against the wall were two 
chairs, where Sylvie's Mum and I sat. The pram was squashed into 
the space between the table side and the wall, and the space on the 
other side was taken up by the sink. The other children were around 
and between us, fidgetting, laughing, squabbling or scribbling on the 
wall. I had protested about the clearing up for me, and she now 
seemed anxious to keep me there, telling me about the terrible rent 
and the terrible houses and the cheek of the Council, while we drank our 
tea. One of the rooms upstairs was quite unusable, she said, and that 
left 3 out of 4. They were in the list for a new flat in Camberwell, 
but I wondered how that would improve the difficulties basically due 
to very poor intelligence. 

Yet Sylvie is a much happier child than Rita, who at 8 is terribly 
distorted: no love would suffice unless she could endlessly demand 
the whole person. "She has had it in a big way". The amount of 
love within a home is the only valid means of valuing it. This is here 
in many homes, though often under guises not easily penetrated by 
people from a different upbringing, and often an extensive network of 
aunts and uncles within the locality is included. 

I remember a particular day in the holidays when I'd been home 
for a few days. Almost as soon as I reappeared Rita triumphantly 
shadowed me. She was more claimative than usual and after we'd 
been shopping she waited tirelessly outside the door of the wobbly 
house where I was staying, while I went upstairs to unpack and eat. 
Then she started calling me. I couldn't open the windows, long sealed 
for safety and in any case they were too far back for me to see the 
pavement. So I went down and explained to her that I couldn't 
let her in because it wasn't my house, and tried to get her to go back 
to the Playground, or go and collect egg cartons in the shops for making 
paint divisions in Oxo tins. After another session of calling me she 
demanded I went home with her. I promised I would if she was sure 
Mummy wouldn't mind, but she must go back to the Playground for 
half an hour. 

The atmosphere at her home was very awkward at first. I tried 
to dispel the lady idea straight away; I was just Sheila from the Play- 
ground. I was a bit afraid of Dad at first, and noticed uneasily the 
way he grabbed Rita in when she was introducing me, presented on 
the doorstep, as though he was afraid she might let them down. I 
stressed that I'd had tea, but they insisted that I share their paste 
sandwiches, which were good. Somehow the awkwardness disappeared 
and I listened to many self-assurance stories and played draughts with 



207 

various members of the family. They seemed to have much more 
living space than Sylvie's family; the room was lit by a single gas 
mantle, and when anyone left the room or went upstairs to fetch 
something for Daddy (whe seemed to have everything done for him), 
they took a torch. The room seemed to be peaceful and the children 
happy enough, but there were little incidents that made me wonder 
how apathetic Mum had become, and how used to it and unsurprised 
the children were. 

When all but the oldest girls had gone to bad, I asked, as far 
as I dared, why Rita was so much more "nervy" than the others. 
"Well she's very highly-strung," and there followed a long story of 
her schoolmaster, which sounded terrible to me, but if it were true, 
either they as parents were too dim to tell him anything, or the head- 
master was dead to his job. But oh yes, she's been to County Hall 
about it. I wondered. 

I had to learn to wonder. Didn't she realise how Rita always 
has a very difficult time with other children at Lollard, and doubtless 
at school as well, because she, in particular, is always so dirty. I 
han't the sureness or tact then to try to talk to her mother. In any 
case I think it would come to a fight against her booze, and that there 
is probably more of "I can't be bothered" than I was allowed to see. 
At wash time the children used a large china bowl in the same room, 
one kettle of water, one black towel, and one sponge. A case of "you 
had it last, where is it?" This sort of dirtiness was very different 
from simply getting clothes filthy and torn at Lollard, and different 
from an acceptable "that'll have to do for today". 

It didn't fit in with Mum's stories of her own school days, and 
having been Head Girl for three years running. I sensed that this 
was not a matter of lying, but a kind of wishful thinking, giving a 
mask of confidence to face living in a situation of unconsciously real- 
ised failure. 



We had another fire, to burn the ox-head (under threat from the 
warden) which the butcher had kept for me. (I thought to rescue 
the skull — I love skulls). I left it on a corner shelf in the main hut, 
covered with newspaper so the nursery children wouldn"t be frightened, 
for its eyes were quite horrible. I came back later to find it dressed 
in a green woolly cap, a white silky scarf a daffodil and a newspaper 
ruffle. It looked quite transformed. 

A crash through the hut door — Masher of course — as I am 
doodling on the piano. "Evening Mozart!" with no change of expres- 
sion whatsoever. The greeting almost held some hidden respect. He 
only just remembered he was pally tonight and threw me his evening 
paper, which he couldn't read, and was satisfied that I agreed with 
him that the new Lonnie Donegan record was good. 

The potholes by the swings have just been rediscovered, with 
much excitement when some bones were found, chicken-like, but with 
teeth. The Playground is fuller tonight — is there nothing good on 



208 




telly? Excavations are still going strong at 7.30: we close at 8 p.m. 
Sometimes, on such nights, there is time to talk to the warden about 
the children and the place. Our best perch was on the scenery steps 
(sent us by Ealing Studios) outside the train, a position from which 
we could "keep eye" over most of the 1J acres. I often drew while 
listening, (it was a way of hearing more!). Tonight's drawing was 
better than usual, and the leathr-jacket boys, wandering off, demanded 
to see it of course. There was general agreement that it was good. 
Then Charlie came over, always with a naughty grin for me. I sat 
back so I could watchback so I could watch his face — it went dead 
serious in admiration and disbelief mingled. "Cori! . . . it's Mr. 
Turner! Cor! It's fucking great!" This was obviously the greatest 
credit his vocabulary could give, and was quite sincere. "It's a 
smashing likeness." I laughed; we all did. Usually they check any- 
thing 'bad' coming out in front of me or Mr. Turner. 

I am sitting again on the large wooden step, with my arm around 
little Greek Ida who has had a nasty bash on her head. She seems 
quite content to sit beside me while I scribble, not looking at her or 
speaking to her. Pamela is standing in the Hut door, licking her ice 
cream, dealing out malicious glares to Ida; it was she who knocked her 



i 
i 



209 

over. She's terribly spiteful; both her parents are practically mentally 
deficient. The WVS arranges children's holidays, and this year she 
went with Sylvie and another child, but she was so difficult with the 
others that she was sent home. This morning I made a special point 
of giving her a nice smile and decent bits of paper to draw on, and she 
was fairly reasonable. But I wonder what she will do when she is 
older; she is quite unlovable. Even Rita had moments when I thought 
I could help her. She was chosen for the WVS holiday too, but for 
some reason her father refused, and then changed his mind when it was 
too late. (The only cost asked was the child's normal Family Allow- 
ance). 

* * * 

The essence of the Adventure Playground as I knew it was not 
merely its being an area of rough ground sporting an unorthodox collec- 
tion of playthings, nor even the freedom from petty rules. It was the 
belongingness resulting from the struggle for it in which the children, 
or their older brothers and sisters, had taken part. Poverty was a 
strength of the Adventure Playground. As warden you'd suddenly 
remember : "My God ! Five pounds due for the water rate at the end 
of the month!" You know the committee certainly wouldn't have any 
money, so somehow you had to raise it. When you needed wood for 
camp building, you couldn't send in an order for it, you had to find a 
local timber merchant and somehow get round him, giving the reasons. 
When the wood comes it's an absolute triumph. The installation of the 
phone at Lollard was an amazing example. Children came in just to 
look at this lovely black thing, to fondle it and hear it purr. "Cor, 
Blimey! We've got a bleeding telephone now," said Masher. 

Struggle produces a whole range of human emotions that are 
otherwise absent. Without it the human spirit becomes apathetic and 
dies. Hence the "community spirit" of wartime that people always 
remark about. Also the bewildered fathers who thought they fought 
for the children of the future. Tradition is far too abstract. Each 
generation, each individual, needs to be involved in his own struggle 
for something. This is why freedom to change is so important in any 
community. One of Lollard's favourite activities was making and 
mending rules. 

There is a widespread and childish theory that because there is 
alleged to be no material need to cause juvenile delinquency, there is 
no "excuse" for it, and therefore today's young people are worthless, 
etc. Surely it is simply that new living feet are squashed into very old 
boots, instead of being allowed to wear their own shoes or sandals, with 
plenty of toe-wiggling space and room for growth. How stupid is the 
surprise when the new feet grow social corns and bunions! Only the 
feeble stop growing altogether. So, in 1961, we have the Anti-Violence 
League ... the tooth-for-tooth types. 

In 1895 Oscar Wilde optimistically wrote that "When each member 
of the community has sufficient for his wants, and is not interfered with 



210 

by his neighbourjt will not be an object of any interest to him to inter- 
fere with anyone else ..." Today we are not so much affected by the 
physical starvation which Wilde saw as causing so much "crime". We 

are in a new emotional starvation. 

* * * 

The development of Play Parks as a kind of halfway house between 
the conventional asphalt-and-swings playground and the radical con- 
ception of the Adventure Playground, is of course a good thing as far 
as it goes, but even the most attractive architect-designed children's 
parks in Sweden, Germany and elsewhere have, to me, the most impor- 
tant thing missing. Things are provided and arranged for their pleas- 
antness to the adult eye, but atmosphere of the personal kind can never 
be built, and it is easy to associate it with "eyesores". This is simply 
because voluntary organisations are never rich, a fact which is also their 
strength because it eliminates interference. 

A vast administrative set-up automatically becomes "Them". There 
is far less care of equipment and much more stealing. At Charlton 
Play Park the leaders have a pawnshop deposit system to ensure that 
barrows, balls, chalks, etc. are returned. One day when I was there 
some children ran up to me: "Miss, a boy's just thrown a barrow over 
the wall!" He'd also climbed over a high brick wall to the road and 
disappeared. The leader checked the barrows : there were two missing. 
The place had been open a week and everything was new. About an 
hour later an elderly gentleman came up to the hut with both barrows, 
damaged, one of them wrecked. He'd stopped two boys in his road 
and guessed where they belonged. We were surprised that he knew 
of the Play Park and were grateful. Charlton (Blackheath) is hardly 
a "poor" district. 

Because the LCC is "Them" and is also huge, it merges in many 
people's minds with the other Thems, like Income Tax, the Rates, the 
Government. They are "sue-able" establishments to get the better 
of, to be hostile to. The Adventure Playground is not; it is a personal 
thing in their midst which they have come to respect and value. It is 
even protected by them. It is often unworkable because unsupported. 
Offers of support invariably meant attempts to influence, to control, 
policy. We often met the idea that a benefactor could buy his way 
into the committee, and had a right to do so. (A reflection of the 
stocks and shares mentality.) 

The financial ideal would be to be granted the bare running costs, 
covering sanitation, lighting, heating, salaries and maintenance of any 
hard surface; with the day-to-day things like paint, wood, nails, tools, 
etc., being covered by the children's own efforts. At one time at Lollard 
there was talk of a fantastic sum of money being given by an impressed 
and well-meaning visitor. In the warden's words, "the offer terrified 
me— it would have killed the place quicker than anything— unless I could 
have given it out at about 2^d. a day, when it would have lasted for 
years." 

The Adventure Playground could be invaluable for developing 



211 

personality in a poor or apathetic area. The disadvantage at Lollard 
was the dependency upon the warden which began to appear in some 
of the older boys of 17 to 20. He became to them a kind of god. This 
is unlikely to happen on a Play Park because everything is far less 
personal and struggle-free. Also because there are more play-leaders 
and the boys would probably not stay so long, even if the present age 
limit of 16 did not exist. 




The advantage of the Adventure Playground is mainly psychologi- 
cal: its direct human contact with people's emotions. The warden, or 
whatever he calls himself, has to live with the families in the neighbour- 
hood. "He's got to attend their funerals, their births, weep with them, 
and on Sunday console some woman whose man has just gone off with 
some other woman ..." There are no convenient hours. Play Parks 
on the other hand are cut off at the root and operate on a superficial 
level. The Play Park Leader must record each day's attendances for 
the LCC's staffing and equipment quotas. "80 children present ..." 
Any children. The Play Park man is even discouraged from any real 
interest in individual children because it would be inconvenient to the 
monster organisation with all its different departments. If the leader 
does become concerned over some child or family, and thinks something 
could be done he is expected to report it to the Play Parks Organiser, 
who, in turn, would be expected to refer it to the appropriate depart- 
ment: Child Welfare, Housing, Health, etc. But human nature is not 
designed to be organised by a system of pigeon holes. It is precisely 



212 

because the leader is known and trusted that he is able, perhaps, to 
influence people. Quite apart from the fact that some parents are of 
unbelievably low intelligence, many are suspicious, even scornful, of 
advice from some abstract authority. 

The Play Centres, on school premises, have been run for many 
years, drawing children up to the age of fifteen from the streets to a 
variety of indoor activities and organised games. The new Play Parks 
are a definite advance, using some of the features of the Adventure 
Playground, plus organised games as wanted. But activities like camp- 
fire building and so on cannot all be adopted at once for fear of a 
public outcry about the mess; there were even some warning complaints 
at one Play Park about the bits of stick the children were leaving on the 
grass from the wattle fence pieces they'd been using for building houses. 
At Brockwell Park the ground is much more interesting, being hilly and 
rough instead of like a lawn, with bushes at the bottom. An old willow 
tree there promised well for climbing, so a man was sent to trim it. He 
lopped all the branches off clean to the trunk, producing a useless 
wooden obelisk. 

Lollard was a genuine community : by that I mean it was a place 
where anybody could fit in, making their own little niche, and through 
this security, could be able to peep out, creep out, or run out altogether, 
just as Michael, the mongol boy in Heather Sutton's film was able to 
fit into the village where he lived. Helpers who came were able to 
present themselves as they really were. For me at least this meant that 
much more valuable contacts could be made. I spent most of my first 
weeks there absorbing the honesty of these children and their relationship 
with the warden and helpers. I felt / wasn't doing anything at all, but 
then I saw that, simply by being there, the children and the older boys 
and girls were getting to know a new and different personality. You 
didn't have to stand on the grass with a whistle and a ball and organise 
games. You could just start doing something, unintroduced — sketching, 
knitting, excavating for interesting relics in the skeletons of burnt 
mattresses — in no time you had followers and could arrange for con- 
tinuing operations tomorrow. And of course you became involved in 
the delights and problems of these young people. (If only education 
could be based on this voluntary principle instead of on that of the 
policeman: it is no new discovery — see Homer Lane or A. S. Neill). 
And there was no need to be frightened when there was a lull and no-one 
wanted to do anything. Some days the place was bustling with camp 
builders and fire makers, and at other times there appeared to be very 
little going on, but the fact that the place was there was its value. 

The reasons for success and failure are purely emotional. Lollard 
has a fantastic spontaneous lease of life, which, like Emdrup, made it 
known all over the world. And then the spirit went and the thing 
slowly collapsed. While I was still there one was aware of this decline. 
Things got pinched — my camera with a roll of used film was my most 
disillusioning loss. Children are ourselves inside-out. Once the spirit 



213 

has gone, they get sticks, they throw, they burn : the thing is dead, so 
destroy it, it isn't living any more. 

When Mr. Turner took over from an earlier warden he had been 
told, "Unless you can do anything with it, the place is doomed." His 
successor was expected to carry on a spirit which had died, and it was 
not her fault that she could not stop this onrush of breaking. She could 
only have brought it off by bringing in new helpers and winning over a 
fresh nucleus of children; but the often unhealthy loyalty of the older 
boys to her predecessor and the fact that she was a woman, made it 
virtually impossible. Visitors came and spent two or three hours with 
us, and then went off enthusiastically to start their own places, with per- 
haps a romantic view of our activity but no awareness of the emotional 
problems. 

Not long after the place was closed, the Hut was burnt down in 
the night. While it lasted it was indeed "something extraordinary". 
The workshop was the most rewarding example of the wave of possess- 
ive care these boys showed. "It wouldn't have lasted a week, elsewhere 
in this district." 




214 



The revolution 

in physical education 



JOAN FOSTER 

In a well-known book the changes seen in the British educational 
system in this century have been described as "the silent social revolu- 
tion'.' Anarchists, looking for fundamental changes in the structure 
of society, would be more than a little sceptical of such a description, 
but there is one field of education where the revolution in theory and 
to a growing extent in practise, has been most striking: that of physical 
education— what in our parent's generation was symptomatically called 
Drill, what we called P.T. and what is now known as RE. 

For our parents this meant marching up and down like toy soldiers 
or marionettes. The pattern was military drill, and in upper-class 
schools the instructor was actually called the Sergeant, and behaved 
like one. Apart from being rigid, jerky and ugly, the military pose 
was physiologically bad : F. A. Hornibrook observed many years ago 

In this age of scientific progress it is curious that our ideals concerning 
man s figure, posture, and gait should be based on the product of the drill 
sergeant s activities . . . Picture in the mind's eye the position of a soldier 
standing at attention and the position of any native man, such as a Fijian 
In the former the back is 'hollowed' and the chest thrust forwards and 
upwards in the attempt to make the man as like a pouter pigeon as possible 
. . . buch a position becomes fatiguing very quickly. The freedom of chest 
movement being restricted, inspiration is interfered with, and the individual 
can only maintain his unnatural position by a mental effort, the duration 
ot wwhich depends on circumstances . . . Heels together and toes turned 
out (a position still adopted in schools and in the Army) is bad, and makes 
the maintaining of a correct stance exceedingly difficult. 

The military ideal is best expressed in Kropotkin's story of the Grand 
Duke Mikhail who inspected his regiment and said, "Very good onlv 
they breathed J 

Drill was followed by "physical jerks" in which the prime virtue 
was found in the uniformity of movement among all the members of 

JOAN FOSTER was a teacher and training college lecturer before 
giving up her job to raise a family. She is a member of the Society for 
Education Through Art. 



215 

the class, even though it might consist of children of all shapes and 
sizes, and in that peculiarly military method of keeping people on their 
toes — the delayed word of command. In gymnastic work, first German 
and then Swedish, and finally Danish gymnastics were in vogue, and 
anyone who attended a grammar school before the war can remember 
the tedium of those hours in the expensively equipped gymnasium in 
which — as in cricket— most of the class's time was spent standing 
around waiting for their turn to perform some particular evolution. 
Apart from the wastage of the pupil's time, and the torture of the fat 
or physically inept child, this period gave us that dreadful stereotype— 
the Gym Mistress. As Miss Crabbe, the principal of one of our best 
Colleges of Physical Education observed : 

The gym mistress used to be hearty, bossy, the born leader who rides 
roughshod over the meek and nervous; the tomboy, who later becomes the 
'hockey hag', the organiser of assembly, speech days and school lectures — 
the one with the carrying voice and the good disciplinarian. 

Today we have quite a different picture, and a different conception 
of the instructor, who does not raise her voice, and judges her success 
not on how many pupils can jump 4ft. lOin. or climb to the top of a 
rope, but as Miss Crabbe says, "by the number who have felt success 
and pleasure in some way and to some degree through body movement", 
and we might add (since physical education is really nothing to do with 
competitive sport or the gladiatorial training of Olympic performers) 
that we can measure her success in the poise, grace and economy of 
movement of her pupils. 

The great changes which have taken place in theory and are steadily 
ousting older methods in practice have come, as such changes always 
do from the "cranks" on the fringe; in this instance with the concern 
for the quality of movement as such. Probably the most fruitful influ- 
ences from the outside on physical education have been Rudolf Laban's 
ideas on the dance and those of F. M. Alexander and his disciples, on 
posture. They are parallel of course to the general change, however 
partially and spasmodically achieved so far, to "child-centred" education. 

The distance travelled in officially accepted ideas in one generation 
can be seen by comparing the Board of Education's Syllabus of Physical 
Training for Schools issued in 1933, with the Ministry of Educations' 
manual on physical education in the primary school, issued in two 
volumes in 1952 and 1953. The first volume Moving and Growing is 
an absorbing study of the physical and psychological growth of the 
child and his physical capabilities. The second, Planning the Pro- 
gramme, applied to class work the principles derived from the first, 
modestly noting that it provided, "for those teachers who need it, a 
nucleus of material . . . both teachers and children will, no doubt, 
expand the ideas given, and evolve their own ..." Even so, it was 
still possible as recently as 1954 for the London County Council to 
issue for its teachers a book called Syllabus of Physical Training for 
Infants Schools. Ruth Morison of the I. M. Marsh College of Physical 
Education, has written an excellent pamphlet, Educational Gymnastics, 



216 

especially for teachers "who were trained in the Swedish System of 
Gymnastics and who are puzzled by the present day trends in Physical 
Education", in which she singles out the two great changes of the last 
few years as, firstly, that "we no longer think merely of giving instruc- 
tion to classes but we set out to provide the environment, create the 
atmosphere and give the stimulus which will help the individual to grow 
and develop naturally' and secondly that instead of following 'systems' 
of set exercises "designed to suit the hypothetical average", and "making 
the whole class as nearly identical as possible in their movements, and 
in following a common 'rhythm'," the teacher is no longer concerned 
with preconstructed exercises "because each individual selects her own 
way and to help her through this way of moving." 

When an account in the Times Educational Supplement on the 
change in approach declared that 

A close study of children's natural movements, the use of their innate 
impulses to play and to dance, the encouragement of spontaneity and 
creativity, an atmosphere of permissiveness and informality, and a resolve 
to learn from the children themselves how to educate them — these are the 
marks of a modern programme of physical education for young children. 

it called forth the comment that a serious omission from this list was 
"the teaching of fundamental skills such as running, jumping, landing, 
catching and throwing" since it does not follow that, without specific 
direction, children will perform them well or, in the case of some of 
them, even safely. This may be perfectly true, with the proviso that 
the child will be eager to perfect these skills when it is ready for them, 
and when they have a meaning and purpose for the individual child. 
An investigation to measure the effect of coaching in the junior school 
upon ultimate performance in the secondary school (in the case of 
soccer) printed as an appendix to M. W. Randall's Modern Ideas on 
Physical Education shows no significant relationship. The child learns 
when it is ready to learn. 

On this question of correcting defects of posture and movement, the 
methods used by J. V. Fenton, a primary school headmaster, developed 
from the work of the late Charles Neil of the Re-education Centre, were 
described by him in an article in The New Era for Sept.-Oct. 1958, as 
follows : — 

Whilst the rest of the class is distributed about the field or hall on 
various apparatus, one group is having specific instruction in a simple point 
of body mechanics. The teacher has chosen movement at the hip joint as 
the subject of the lesson and demonstrates the 'closing the lid of the box' 
action in leaning forward, while sitting. He then demonstrates distortions 
of this simple movement that involve the body in unnecessary strain. He 
encourages his group to suggest what is at fault. This they do with enjoyment 
and interest. He asks one or two to demonstrate 'right and wrong ways'. 
The children are highly inventive of wrong ways and find it fun; but all the 
time they are becoming increasingly aware that there is choice in the way 
one uses one's body. 

Consciousness of choice is the first essential of freedom in any 



217 

sphere, and in a way, we can describe the object of all physical education 
as the liberation of the body. 

Swimming, more than anything else, consists of the discovery of 
the art of perfect movement, and with the coming of cheap fibreglass 
pools there is now no reason, except inertia or the feeling that "the 
authorities" are responsible for such things, why parents' associations 
or Parent-Teacher associations, should not provide a learners' pool at 
every primary school. 

Just like the adventure playground, the new approach to physical 
education is revolutionary in that ii seeks to provide for individual needs 
and individual self-selected activity. But can we call this an anarchist 
revolution, a revolution which can claim that the interweaving of this 
ever-changing variety of individual activities will produce a social har- 
mony without an externally imposed authority? I am indebted to the 
editor of this magazine for the marvellous description of a really modern 
gymnasium at work, given in the book The Peckham Experiment, which 
epitomises the social aspect of this revolution. The authors, Innes 
Pearse and Lucy Crocker, are describing the gymnasium at the Peckham 
Health Centre — before the war, when in the schools we were still lining 
up our pupils in teams for Swedish gym. In their gymnasium, the 
observer saw 

boys and girls moving in every direction at varying speeds, swinging 
on ropes suspended from the ceiling, running after balls and each other, 
climbing, sliding, jumping — all this activity proceeding without bumps or 
crashes, each child moving with unerring accuracy according to its own 
subjective purpose, without collision, deliberate avoidance or retreat. 

And did this anarchy result in chaos? Not at all, for if we go on 
to study this activity from the point of view of a child who goes into 
it, we see that : 

He goes in and learns unaided to swing and to climb, to balance, to 
leap. As he does all these things he is acquiring facility in the use of his 
body. The boy who swings from rope to horse, leaping back again to 
the swinging rope, is learning by his eyes, muscles, joints and by every sense 
organ he has, to judge, to estimate, to know. The other twenty-nine boys 
and girls in the gymnasium are all as active as he, some of them in his 
immediate vicinity. But as he swings he does not avoid. He swings where 
there is space — a very important distinction — and in doing so he threads 
his way among his twenty-nine fellows. Using all his faculties, he is aware 
of the total situation in that gymnasium — of his own swinging and of his 
fellows' actions. He does not shout to the others to stop, to wait or to 
move from him — not that there is silence, for running conversations across 
the hall are kept up as he speeds through the air. 

But this 'education' in the live use of all his senses can only come if 
his twenty-nine fellows are also free and active. If the room were cleared 
and twenty-nine boys sat at the side silent while he swung, we should in 
effect be saying to him— to his legs, body, eyes — 'You give all your attention 
to swinging; we'll keep the rest of the world away' — in fact — 'Be as egotistical 
as you like'. By so reducing the diversity in the environment we should 
be preventing his learning to apprehend and to move in a complex situation. 
We should in effect be saying— 'Only do this and this; you can't be expected 
to do more'. Is it any wonder that he comes to behave as though it is all 



218 

!h P Ml^f- By ^ eXist ' ng methods of teaching we are in fact inducing 
the child s mco-ordination in society. 8 

We have begun to realise this, and to create these conditions of 
treedom in physical education, which, in one small field, can be described 
as an anarchist society in miniature. What was once by far the most 
authoritarian, and indeed militaristic, subject in education, is becoming 
the most free and libertarian. Can such a change be entirely without 
influence in other fields of life? y wnnoui 



Where Can They Play? 

(Following the publication of the report "Two to Five in High Flats" 
two students wrote to the Guardian as follows) • 

As students at the City of Leicester Training College (for teachers) 
we nave recently undertaken an investigation into young children's play 
and provision made for it. Our inquiries-during the summer vacation 
—covered 200 families with children aged from 2 to 15, in old and 
new housing estates, villages and towns in districts from Kent to Lan- 
cashire. 

In towns the uses children like— and need— to make of open spaces 
(where they exist) were very often prohibited: "No ball games," "No 
bicycles, Keep off the grass." In villages the children were more 
lortunate in natural surroundings but even less official provision was 
made for them, particularly for adolescents. 

In housing estates conditions varied. New estates, where more 
and more people are living, seemed the worst off because less space 
for communal use or for private gardens can be afforded since the 
pressure for actual dwellings is so great. On old and new estates there 
were garden-proud parents who put the appearance of their gardens 
before the needs of their children. Only on one privately built estate 
had the parents campaigned for extra space to be left for play as well 
as their own gardens. In no cases were there any provisions for super- 
vised play places tor children under 5. 

Following our investigation we started a play centre at the college 
where children aged from 5 to 12 can cook, sew, paint or model with 
clay dance, play m the gymnasium, in the 'Wendy House', or with 
™ a ™ n S ot r her thin Ss. We opened in September with an attendance 
of 35 children from the neighbourhood. After six months the numbers 
have risen to 108 and the children now come from a radius of three 
mites. This seems a strong indication that the children do not have 
enough or sufficiently varied opportunities for free play of the kind 
they want close at hand. 

Your article has drawn attention to the lack or adequate provision 
for small children "living high". Our enquiries and experiences have 
discovered that there are similar inadequacies for a much wider age 
range and in a variety of housing situations. 

„ . H. Stewart. 

Scraptoft, Leicester. M . E . Ferguson. 



219 



Observations 
on Anarchy 4 

Where the Shoe Pinches 

I think; as a socialist, I would make two comments. First, how 
do you make institutions as democratic as possible when you have to 
keep them going? It is not sufficient to be just against things, and this 
involves educating people in new knowledge and teaching people to 
observe facts and take notice of them. 

Secondly, the community has to operate against fractional power, 
including (as you so rightly say) the family. I am utterly opposed to 
Peter Townsend's view because the family is extremely limiting and 
quite unsuited as a vehicle of the liberation of the human spirit. I 
quite agree with Bernard Shaw. If this is so, then individualism is quite 
an inadequate doctrine. Indeed, laissez-faire is what we have always 
been against. 

Therefore, what do we do? Perhaps I havnn't understood the line 
of argument; but as it stands I find myself pro-Lady Wootton, and 
anti-anarchy. 
University of London Institute of Education. John Vaizey. 

I have read your article on institutions with keen interest. I agree 
almost completely with the approach you adopt and you may be inter- 
ested to learn that I am hoping to include a lengthy discussion of all 
the literature in my forthcoming book on old people's homes. If I 
may make just one or two comments I think perhaps you over-rate the 
quality of the small residential home for old people. While of course 
they are a great improvement on the old workhouses I think there are 
some very real social and psychological deficiencies. 
London School of Economics. Peter Townsend. 

This is just a note to say how much I enjoyed Where the Shoe 
Pinches in Anarchy 4. So much of what is mentioned in the article 
I have noticed from either personal or second-hand experience — in the 
social services, in mental institutions, hospitals, and public health depart- 
ments. So often you cannot pinpoint absolute 'proof of the type that 
would satisfy an official investigation, but there is an all-pervading 



220 

atmosphere, a general attitude and approach, in all these institutional 
organisations, that appals one in its lack of understanding, or even 
considering personalities or characteristics. The description of the 'co- 
operative' inmate in a jail or hospital or orphanage is so exactly what 
one sees. You hear commendation of the child who 'adjusts' or the 
patient who 'co-operates'. . . . 

South Pender, British Columbia. (Mrs.) Eve Smith. 

I found Mr. Ward's comprehensive review of the institutional 
problem very interesting indeed, and I think he is to be commended for 
bringing together in a coherent way considerations affecting such a 
wide range of institutions and social structures. 

I think the diagnosis is very sound and that this is a necessary 
first step in seeking remedies. What these will be and how they are 
to be achieved I do not know — where in any provision can one break 
the vicious circle; but small-scale examples offered by rare people in 
whom there is combined suitable knowledge and suitable personality 
probably have their part to play. I say this, having in mind my own 
interest in the liberalization of methods of caring for children in hospital. 
In the wards shown in my second film Going to Hospital with Mother, 
the chance constellation of several people who have personalities which 
are non-authoritarian, who have respect for the family and wish to 
preserve it, and who seek to understand what they are doing, has created 
a useful prototype. Too often, as Mr. Ward has noted in his survey, 
hospitals are among the institutions in which authority is exercised 
either for its own sake or as a defence against seeing the true needs of 
patients. 

Tavistock Child Development Research Unit. James Robertson 



Conflicting Strains in Anarchist Thought 

Anarchy 4 was most welcome, because in one step of only 32 pages 
it made sense out of anarchism as a contemporary outlook, firstly with 
George Molnar's sweeping away of the cobwebs of meaningless revolu- 
tionism to reveal the proper core of anarchism — permanent opposition, 
and secondly with Colin Ward's essay which showed just how con- 
structive this permanent opposition can be since it insists on an alterna- 
tive pattern of social behaviour. It shows how from this aspect the 
anarchists were right all along the line, and the rest of us are slowly 
catching up with them. I would like to take up two points in Molnar's 
argument. First that he omits to mention the whole school of indivi- 
dualist anarchism which never subscribed to the fallacies he exposes, 
secondly that when he says that the overwhelming majority of contem- 
porary anarchists subscribe to anarcho-syndicalism, this may or may not 
be true of Australia, but is definitely untrue of the Americas or Europe. 
San Francisco, Col. H. Schwartz. 



221 

Mr. George Molnar, writing in Anarchy 4, argues that whatever 
the merits of the anarchist ideal, no means exist for achieving it which 
are not fantastic and inutile (Kropotkin) or actually covertly subversive 
of it (Bakunin). He accuses the most considerable practical attempt 
to promote it — in the anarcho-syndicalist labour movements — of bureau- 
cratic deformation directly proportional to public success. He con- 
cludes that anarchism is "not something which can assert itself over the 
whole of society": it must understand itself as a permanent ethical 
lobby. 

We can agree with Mr. Molnar that Kropotkin was mistaken in his 
optimism ("everywhere the Slate is abdicating and abandoning its holy 
functions to private individuals" Conquest of Bread, p. 188) and naive 
in his anticipation of spontaneous popular revolt; we can similarly agree 
that Bakunin's revolutionary praxis led him into deep contradiction. 
We can agree that the Latin syndicalist movements offer something less 
than continuous examples of conduct according to doctrine. But these 
agreements do not force us to accept his general conclusion. 

I lis general conclusion, or capitulation, is illegitimate for the follow- 
ing reasons: (I) the judgment of syndicalism is over-reaching, and (2) 
even if it were correct, he would have successfully criticised some routes 
to Anarchy, but not all of them. We can take up each of these objec- 
tions in order: 

(1) How significant were the lapses and failures of syndicalism? 
Is all syndicalist enterprise condemned to repeat them? Anarchists 
recognise the tendency for the delegative strata to separate from the 
body of any organisation. This tendency is hard to check under any 
circumstances, but particularly so where a revolutionary-egalitarian 
ideology must co-exist with the routine meliorism of practical trade 
unionism. Opportunists are attracted with every increase in the physical 
power of the union : recruitment takes place in a power-oriented society. 
Levelling devices fall into disuse because — and this point is neglected 
by Roberto Michels, on whom Mr. Molnar leans so heavily — they are 
antagonistic to the economic functions of the trade unions. Hierarchy 
gains ground. The phenomena of struggle are degraded: even the 
General Strike becomes a device for personal publicity. Now, in spite 
of all this, it is safe to claim that the syndicalist unions were significantly 
less oligarchical than either reformist or marxist unions. This last is 
obliquely conceded by Michels in one or two places: "It may be admit- 
ted that the supreme directive organs of the French labour movement 
do not possess that plenlitude of powers which the corresponding hierar- 
chical grades of other countries have at their disposal — above all in 
Germany . . . (Political Parties, p. 353). The degenerescence progres- 
sive du syndicalisms prevented from coming to terms by World War I,. 
was lowering the movement, in some regions, to levels of abuse which 
were usual for unions of other types : "From the ranks of the French 
syndicalists, leaders have already sprung whose sensitiveness to the 
criticisms of their followers can be equalled only by that of an English 
trade-union leader ..." (Political Parties, p. 355). 



222 

There is another caution to be observed in judging syndicalism. Its 
visible history, the official and polemical literature, gives a very imper- 
fect sense of the movement. That is to say, even the failure to contain 
bureaucracy, even the failure to produce ultimate revolutions, should 
not count so heavily against a movement which brought the great virtues 
of the event of Revolution — heroic generosity, courage, endurance, self- 
lessness, social ingenuity — into the conduct of daily life. This is the 
unwritten history of anarcho-syndicalism and what we know of it we 
know only through the memories of old men. 

Syndicalism, unsupported by other forces, we know to be cor- 
ruptible. But we have learned something from the past: and it remains 
true that permanent democracy in organisations will still rest on devices 
proposed and employed by the syndicalist pioneers. 

(2) Is there a route towards anarchy which lies outside Mr. 
Molnar's structures? There is. It is the route of piecemeal revolution, 
experimental socialism, the attempt to contrive enclaves of freedom: 
this line of effort assimilates broadly to the Milieux Litres tradition in 
France, to the movement for integral co-operatives elsewhere, but with 
great differences of scale, intention, and composition. This line of 
effort also depends directly on a conception of anarchism as a general 
form of society, and it is this conception which determines the scope 
and order of experiment. Conditions are appropriate for this kind of 
work in the West now. Where they are inappropriate, anarchists will 
necessarily conspire, in alliance with other democratic radical forces, 
to the point of Revolution : but the object of Revolution, for the anar- 
chists, constituted everywhere as minorities, must be the limited one 
of creating conditions of free organization and agitation. 

Mr. Molnar's "anarchism as permanent opposition" is identical 
with the condescending formula of Michels: "anarchism as prophy- 
lactic". It is a headlong inference from infirm premises. There is a 
last charge against it: anarchism now considers itself as "something 
which can assert itself over the whole of society" but it functions — where 
it does — in the main as an ethical lobby or interest; its critical force 
derives from the conviction that it embodies a set of radical alternatives; 
if it understood itself only as a lobby it would lack the numbers or 
force for any function whatever. 
New York City, N.Y. Norman Rush. 



The two articles in Anarchy 4 invite comparison. States, just as 
the lesser institutions, have, until now, acted as George Molnar sug- 
gests; but the political leaders, just as the institutional leaders, have 
been products of, and dedicated to the continuance of authority, whether 
in the same (conservative) or a modified (e.g. 'Labour' form). None 
have expressly had the aim of 'de-institutionalisation' of the State, or 
a clear programme for doing this. 

Just as those in control of some of the smaller institutions Colin 
Ward surveys, have been able to reorganise them and break down their 



223 



power-structure, once they have recognised the need, and achieved a 
libertarian, re-orientation which was impossible for the inmates them- 
selves, ignorant as they almost universally were (staffs included) of 
the nature of their malady. But it noted, however, that, once given 
the opportunity and a little help, these inmates were henceforth capable 
o. organising themselves anarchist ieai I y. 

Is it not feasible therefore, thai a future generation of state-admin- 
istrators, reared in comae* with (he psychological ;ind sociological 
theories and experiments now developing their influence on the lesser 
institutions, may take the hi'si steps in the dismantling oi' that mammoth 
institution with the growing support, we may hope and anicipale, of 
an increasing body n\' socially-aware and informed opinion? 

George Molnafs views represent well I he general anarchist view 
of Use Stale witness Ins abundant quotes (ml of the State as it is 
and as ii has been in (he past. All anarchists wish u> see the State, 
as an insiniinenl o\ authority, disappear. But they have, mostly, 
despaired iA the main hope oi' the 'classical' anarchists, of a mass up- 
rising to overthrow it and substitute a 'state' of anarchy, as they 
realise that mass uprisings are fertile ground for rival power groups; 
violence breeds violence, despite the heartening glimpses of spontaneous 
social organisation discerned briefly during, for exampde, the Spanish 
and Cuban revolutions or the Hungarian uprising. 

Most now pin their hopes on a growth of social awareness among 
the general population, and an extension of civil disobedience to force 
an abdication of power; but despite the growth of support for the Cam- 
paign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Committee of 100, etc., there is 
little sign yet of any general growth of social responsibility; few even 
of the participants in the sit-downs, as Freedom reports, have any con- 
ception of the wider implications of the movement. 

But as Alex Comfort says (quoted in Anarchy), 'the importation of 
science into the study of crime is an irreversible step, and its outcome 
can only be the suppression of science itself, or a radical remodelling 
of our ideas on government and the regulation of behaviour.' As in 
the field of criminology, why not also in the field of social (political) 
administration? As administrators become aware of the conclusions of 
social scientists, may they not increasingly feel compelled to implement 
them? 

This awareness among administrators is an essential, before any 
decentralisation of the political structure, any more towards the abdica- 
tion of power, can start; but equally, I regret I must return to my point 
of divergence from other anarchists — the breakdown cannot commence 
before the unrealistic financial mechanism which distorts the perspectives 
of all those attempting to comply with its restrictions, is replaced by 
one which will facilitate instead of inhibiting socially desirable produc- 
tion and distribution of wealth; and such a change would be a power- 
ful ally of those seeking social freedom. 



224 

George Molnar quotes Lenin's remark, The machine isn't going 
the way we guide it ... A machine doesn't travel exactly the way, and 
often travels just exactly not the way, that the man imagines who sits 
at the wheel.' This is due either to plain bad driving, or to the built-in 
nature of the machine. In the latter case, given an understanding of 
the mechanism, it can be redesigned to do what a competent driver 
wishes. 

He then quotes Maximoff : (Anarchists believe that) "it would be 
impossible to make the State change its nature, for it is such only 
because of this nature, and in foregoing the latter it would cease to be 
a State.' This is mere tautology, for if you define the State in terms of 
its nature, it is perfectly true that if its nature were changed it would 
cease to be a State in accordance with your definition; but this does 
nothing to inhibit such a change; it merely requires a new descriptive 
label to be provided. 

Molnar states: '(this) domestic imperialism of the State compels 
all parties, despite any allegiance they may have to specific parties or 
groups, to frame and execute policies which, irrespective of the inten- 
tions behind them, have the effect of extending state tutelage over wide 
areas of society formerly not under central control.' True; and, as he 
suggests, this domestic imperialism is a built-in aspect of the State 
machine, which no party which has so far been elected has recognised 
as such or sought to modify . . . Alex Comfort in a broadcast) talk on 
The Art of the Possible about a year ago, put forward Riewald's idea 
of 'satisfactory' crimes, and extended it to 'satisfactory' political projects. 
This motivation of psychopathic politicians is serious enough in itself; 
but when it is joined to the unrealities inherent in the financial mechan- 
ism it proves disastrous. But this is inevitable only while the success- 
ful politicians are psychopaths of the present kind and while the financial 
mechanism remains as it is. Neither condition is inherently unalterable, 
powerful though the protective devices built-in to the present State 
mechanisms may be. 

I think Molnar's conclusions (Part III) unduly pessimistic. In 
answer to his para. 2, part III: the social scientists and psychologists 
are gaining increasing social influence, while directly attacking political, 
or at least, institutional authoritarianism. In para. 3, a more useful 
distinction than between 'free' and 'authoritarian' organisation would 
be between 'free' and 'arbitrary' authority. Thus technical experts might 
reasonably be expected to lead in their fields, and have their advice 
acted upon, without any coercion. Their 'functional authority' would 
be respected, without the support of 'arbitrary authority'. Indeed, the 
action of arbitrary authority commonly degrades or negates the 'func- 
tional authority' it is supposed to supplement. 

I would agree with George Molnar's conclusion that 'anarchism as 
a plan for the liberation of society does not work', but I believe that* 
nevertheless, it is both justifiable and realisable as an aim for social 
development. 
London. B. Leslie. 



The Bunty Boys 



Malcolm Munthe 

One cold Sunday afternoon in 1932, the author (who is the 
son of Axel Munthe) decided to start a boys' club in Southwark : 
this book is the story of the adventures of its members — they were 
called the Bunty Boys because "Bunty" was the nearest they could 
get to his name. His account of their picaresque activities during 
the next seven years is a minor classic of London life, full of tales 
of a society that has passed away for ever. 



8 photos 



18.y. net 



<;erald Duckworth & co. ltd. 

3 Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2, 



A full range of pamphlets, books and reports on 
Adventure Playgrounds 

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Information and advice on playgrounds of all kinds is available 
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Herbert Read 




THE EDUCATION OF FREE MEN 


32/;/?. 


paper Is. 




Freedom Press 



Printed by Express Printers, London, E.I.